Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Pay to Play?

by David Portney

A lot has been said in the last few months on the topic of paying NCAA athletes. The conversation has been exclusively about big-time college athletics in D1 football and basketball, but I think it extends past those two sports. Imagine the ripple effect it would have on all campuses if athletes were to be paid. If all football players just get even a small amount per month, how would that impact the women's volleyball programs?

The answer is greatly. I understand football and basketball programs have gotten into trouble with handing players money under the table, and there has to be a way to remedy the problem. I've never liked people who stand up and complain about something, but don't offer any solutions to fix it. Maybe I'm being a hypocrite here because to be honest, I don't have a solution for this "pay to play" issue, but what I do know is that if programs were to officially dole out potentially millions of dollars to programs, the entire school could suffer.

There are plenty of big time college football programs that also have elite volleyball programs, so to say one would not affect the other would be naive. Maybe I'm all wrong here, but for all of the talk of paying athletes, I have yet to see a proposed model of any kind. Maybe there is a way to make it work without affecting other programs, and eventually their own. I picture a mid-level football team struggling to make all of their payments to players, so then they start cutting back on their own program. Food, travel and scholarships could all be sacrificed to make sure their QB gets his monthly stipend. Well eventually that money could run out, then they could start taking from the athletic department that otherwise would have gone to other teams.

It's a slippery slope. Who is to say that paying athletes will force them to stop taking payments from elsewhere? Because player X is receiving $500/month doesn't mean that same player won't accept another $1,000 dollars from someone else.

As I said, I don't have the answers but a lot of people seem to think they do. Leave a comment here on the blog if you're one of those people so we can discuss it!

This video brings up a lot of excellent points for both sides...

Friday, June 10, 2011

Media Coverage of Volleyball Part III

by David Portney

Welcome to part III of the three-part blog series on attracting the media to your volleyball program.

Here I’ll tackle the final two questions that you must ask yourself in order to maximize your media coverage:

What kind of team do I have?

As all coaches and players know, every team seems to have a certain identity. Even if a coach has been at a single program for decades, he or she will tell you that every single one of their squads was different in their own way.

Take advantage of that.

If your team has great chemistry, and as a result do a lot of odd but humorous things together off the court…sell it. If you’ve read the first two parts of the blog series, then you’ll know how much emphasis I’ve placed on selling features and off-the-court stories regarding your team. This is no different. Take a pulse of your team to see what exactly you want to sell to the media when you’re making your phone calls and e-mails. The more you can sell the “human element” of your squad the better the chance the media will latch on.

This isn’t an easy thing to do. Unfortunately, I don’t have all of the answers, but it’s something I feel needs to be done. If you’re struggling to create an identity, something a lot of programs do is mandate trips or other team building exercises to bring the personality out.

So we have some media coverage, now what?

Once you get to this point and the media begins to cover your program, your work is not finished. Now you have to make sure they continue to cover you, and don’t run off to the next high school soccer game.

If you learn nothing else from this section it is this: make every member of the media feel he or she is the #1 most important person in the world.

Once you establish that attitude, everything else will fall into place. If a journalist sits courtside, make sure this person has all of the obvious tools needed to do the job: a printed out roster of both teams (in numerical order), media guide, stats and a game day insert with talking points about the specific match.

There are a couple of not-so-obvious things that are easy to overlook. What might be equally, if not more important than the items mentioned above, are two key things: FOOD AND PARKING. If your gym doesn’t have much parking around it, make sure you can accommodate the X number of media members that are going to be there. They will not be very happy if they have to struggle to find parking then schlep their gear to the gym and back. Speak with security and your operations staff to find spots and to create parking passes.

The food is a bit trickier. Obviously I’m not thinking of a full catered spread here, but there has to be something to give them. Even if it’s just a sandwich with chips and a drink…that’s something. If you don’t have the budget or time to have a separate, media and staff only sandwich platter, then work something out with the concession stands to make sure they’re fed.

All of this is an art, not a science. These are all merely suggestions to help kick-start your program to getting media coverage. If you have any questions or comments feel free to shoot me an e-mail at David.Portney@AVCA.org


Friday, June 3, 2011

Media Coverage of Volleyball Part II

by David Portney

Welcome to part II of the three-part blog series on attracting the media to your volleyball program.

Here I’ll tackle the next two questions that you must ask yourself in order to maximize your media coverage:

How do we establish a constant presence in the media industry?

Pester, pester, pester. The media, with exceptions in big volleyball markets, aren’t clamoring to give your program the attention it probably deserves…so don’t make it easy for them not to! Make sure you know every newspaper, radio and television station’s sports director’s name and make sure they know you! Be in their ear on at least a weekly basis constantly giving them updates on your program, and invite them to check out a match or practice. Obviously there is that fine line to just being annoying, so use your best judgment on that front.

I also strongly recommend calling instead of just emailing. It’s a lot easier for a sports director to hit the “delete” button than to ignore a phone call after they picked up. If you bagger enough, you will leave them no choice but to send a reporter out there to at least see what the fuss is about. I might be stating the obvious here, but make sure you’re prepared when you make your phone calls. They will have a barrage of questions for you, so make sure you have stats and other pertinent info at the ready.

Who are my local media outlets?

Sure, we know ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX and your local newspaper, but do you know who the contact person is for these places? Well, it’s not as difficult to find as you think. At least for the television stations, the local affiliates have websites that list everyone’s e-mail address, and sometimes telephone number. However, what every station has is a news or desk hotline that a live person almost always picks up. If you can’t find the sports director’s phone number online, give that number a call and ask to be transferred to the sports department.

For newspapers, it’s tough to say because every paper does it differently. I’ll assume most have websites so I’d check that out first. If they don’t or it’s severely lacking, more times than not the paper itself has contact information on it.

Remember, all of this is not a science, but an art. These are merely suggestions to help you get going from someone who’s spent a lot of time working in and with the mainstream media.

I’d love to continue the dialogue, so post a comment here or our facebook (facebook.com/avcavolleyball) and twitter (@avcavolleyball) accounts to keep the conversation going!

Stay tuned for part III!